In response to the Black Women’s Collective’s List of Demands finalized on March 4, President Alecia DeCoudreaux has implemented numerous services that are available for Black students across campus. This list of demands is a direct response to the racist, anonymous confession posted on the Mills Confessions Facebook page that targeted Black women on campus and reflects the needs of Black students at Mills. After the silent protest held by Black students on March 5, President DeCoudreaux sent out two respective emails on March 21 and May 2, updating the Mills community and addressing all of the demands that had been fulfilled.
The BWC demanded immediate implementation of the second and seventh demands. The second demand called for a task force specifically charged with the tasks of “investigating impediments to recruitment, retention, and matriculation of Black students.” The email sent on May 2 from President DeCoudreaux discussed the assembled task force, called the Black Student Enrollment Task Force (BSETF) whose stated goals are to re-evaluate these questions as well as the financial aid awarded to Black students. The Board of Trustees will be meeting with the BSETF later this month to discuss their plans.
“I am very grateful to the individuals who have agreed to serve on this Task Force,” DeCoudreaux said in a previous email to the Mills community. “While the focus of the work of this Task Force will be on Black students, I anticipate that the forthcoming recommendations will benefit all Mills students.”
The seventh demand is concerned with an emergency crisis response team comprised of Black mental health professionals taking appointments with Black students, faculty and staff to provide counseling. This demand has been implemented and students are able to speak with someone should they need to.
In response to demands three (“investigation and reformation of racist policies that police the presence of Black people on campus”), four (“establishment of an emergency fund for Black students”), five (“a shift away from lumping students of color together in one group”), six (“a marked increase in tenure – track faculty of color”) and eight (“a revision of the Social Justice mission statement”), the president stated that these items are already in progress.
There has been investigation into the policies of Public Safety with regard to Black women on campus, and a plan to look over the financial aid process and application has been made. Both of these work to satisfy demands three and four.
The president said work by Provost Kimberly Phillips is underway to address demands five and six. They are working with consultants who are advising them in the best practices to hire diverse faculty and looking over data compiled by the retention committees.
Revisions to the Social Justice Mission Statement are also being made. The president and others are working to hire social justice consultants to make revisions; two people have been hired to begin working on the policy. The president also recently hired the Chief Human Resources EEO and Compliance Officer Aurora Rezapour, who will work with the president herself, to interview and identify diversity trainers to facilitate conversations and training for the Mills community.
In conjunction with the implementation of these demands, many students and faculty of color have optimistic responses to these changes.
First-year student and BWC member Dasia Mack spoke about her emotions during the silent protest and how it affected her.
“As I was standing, I thought about all of the civil rights pictures where people were marching and standing up to police for greater equality,” Mack said. “I thought, ‘if they did that, then the least I can do is stand there and fight, here and now in this moment.’ That day, that moment, I will never forget it.”
Mack has been staying updated with how the campus climate is changing around the implementation of the list of demands.
“I’ve seen all of the updates and messages about what’s been implemented and what has not. I am ultimately waiting for some of the more big ticket items to happen on campus,” Mack said. “I hope our community can start having honest, unadulterated conversations. In order to see if there is a problem, we’ve got to get people together talking honestly.”
Director of the Office of Student Activities Jennifer Wells shared her vision for the future of Mills, speaking on the positive forces of this campus movement and calling for community unity.
“It has been an absolute honor to witness the Black Women’s Collective engage in true student leadership in calling for a campus environment that is supportive to all students,” Wells said. “Together as a college, students, faculty, and staff [can] work together to intentionally move towards the vision of what Mills can be, even when sparked by a very painful time for our entire campus.”
On May 1, the BWC won the award for Student Organization of the Year at the Mills of Color Award Ceremony for their work in social justice across campus.
The entire BWC list of demands can be found here: http://eic.opalstacked.com/black-womens-collective-list-of-demands/.
Contributing Writer Chardonnay Hightower-Collins participated during the Black students’ silent protest on March 5 but is not an active member of the Black Women’s Collective.
For more information about the silent protest, check out The Campanil‘s designated web page for our ongoing protest coverage.
This article appeared in The Campanil‘s special Commencement issue which came out on Tuesday, May 6. For more graduation-related posts, check out The Campanil‘s designated 2014 Commencement webpage here or click on the “Commencement” link in the upper right hand corner of the header.